Chapter 160165089

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Chapter NumberIV
Chapter TitleGATHERING ROSES.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article160165089
Full Date1882-12-23
Page Number3
Corrections0
Word Count5315
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleCadenabbia
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CHAPTER IV.

GATHERING ROSES.

Cossack and Chance were acknowledged to -be two of the handsomest horses to be found in the Southern Hemisphere. We all know that the scions of aristocratic houses -are sometimes found destitute of all the traditional inheritances of high birth, from .serenity, fine manners, and freedom from petty cares, down to a standard shape of j nose. And so we find that some horses ! whose pedigree is long and unstained have occasionally a most unacconntable tendency to develop " points" not in accordance witn fine ; race. Hence Mrs. Westlake, who, though she professed to be'for ever falling a prey either to impassiveness or a dread of being bored, yet would move hearen and

earth to secure what she once Set her heart

011, had chosen these horses solely because of

their beauty, and the success which attended the experiment seemed to imply that with superb handsomeness horses might be reckoned or£to possess every other good gift.

They are going now at their mistress's favourite pace—a singularly swift, even trot— their small pointed ears and shining bright bay coats glistening in the sun. Genevieve watches her friend's face for a few moments in silence. They are driving up the long stone pine avenue, which is the crowning

glory of Cdenabbia,- and the deep cool shadow is redolent of the pungent odours of the pine-trees.

" you are really better, Clarice," says her friend, softly ; for there is a tinge of healthy

colour on Mrs. Westlake's cheeks, and a half repressed smile hovers round her lips.

" Yes, yes; I am better. You have helped to drive away a few mystic evil spirits. You can't think how I have missed you these last two days. _ By-the-way, there are a few people coming to dinner this evening; and we have a friend from the North—Mr. George Hardinge—staying with us. He came down Tvitli Algernon."

Gcneviive attached no special importance to this intelligence; but the moment her eyes fell on the young man she started per -ceptihly. He oa his part was so grave and

calm that no one who had known liim in his unrcgenerate days would have dreamt that it was possible for his eyes to look so subdued, for liis mouth to be so impassive, and his voice so solemnly modulated.

"I'll tell you what, WeBtlake," he had «aid when his friend's wife had positively de clined to lend herself to any plots, or render ?subtle counsel to palliate his past misdeeds, " I'll put a bold face on and play the serious .young man. I'll be like several deacons, a missionary, and Conversion Society all in cue. Oh, yes, you shall see—even if Miss Gray fancies she remembers my face—by Jove, I remember hers well enongh; what lovely eyes she has, and"

A heartless laugh broke this incipient rhapsody.

• "It appears to me, mv dear fellow, that you had better put yourself in training. What do you suppose a serious young man would talk of to a young lady he met for the first time?"

Hardinge tugged at his moustache with an air of the deepest perplexity.

"Something about the confounded nine teenth century I suppose. The worst of it is I have not a very clear idea what is the difference between our century and others— barring steam and telegraph, and making an eternal row about the working classes. Good idea., I'll read np some of your atrocious

boobs."

It seemed to Hardinge, however, as if very few ideas indeed had lodged in his mind from the " atrocious books" ne had been dipping into, when be found himself (Ste-d-Me with Genevteve Gray. For one thing, she had a most discomposing habit of looking one very straight in the face with the most candid eyes

in the world.

The talk fell upon travelling. They had both been in Germany and France. Har

dinge hjid also spent some months in Italy. Genevieve, to her great sorrow, had riot.

"And you know I really want to see Venice," she said, "more than any other city

in the world."

" It's—it's .not very jolly," answered Har dinge, and tb'e moment he said it he had an overwlielmingconriction that a serious young man would not have used such an expression

"Jolly!" repeatedGenevifevequickly, and then she checked herself.

"What I mean is that there are such a fearful lot of beggars and brigands," he Baid, hurriedly. "You can't go into a church or a garden or a gondola without seeing heaps of strong-limbed fellows basking in the sun as lazy as lizards, or else you are waylaid by gaunt ragged figures—men and women, who look as

if they were literally starving. They dart on , you, and hold out ragged hats with their

everlasting 'per carith' till you really feel quite ashamed of having so much money of your own."

There was an unconscious kind of generosity in this which rather mollified Genevihve, whose feelings had been outraged by the young man's first definition of

1 Venice.

" Yes, it must be very sad to see people in absolute want, but surely there are no brigands—at least not in any numbers—iu Venice ?" she said.

" Well. I don't know much of the statistics

of crime —(that's a good phrase at any rate, thonghtHardingecomplacently)—"in Venice. But the common people are so unsmiling and gloomy-looking, with dark complexions and passionate eyes, and their hair and beards seem to have lived for ages in some cave rob bing the passeis-hy."

An, but how much glorious beauty there must be," broke in tieneyjfeve, who, with all her enthusiasm, could not repress a smile at this flight of imagination. ''One cannot think of Venice without reverence for its

history and beauty. Its very name suggests thought of the greatest geniuses —Shak speare and Michael Angelo, and Dante and Paul Veronese. And the sunsets—were you not ravished with the sunsets and churches ?"

"Yes, I think the roof of St. Mark's the finest I have ever seen. But you kDOW, Miss Gray, they were not so very saintly after all when they built their hundreds of churches. They slaughtered other nations, and then stole their marble, and porphyry, and granite, and precious stones to do honour to all the saints. A fellow who was with me said that the arches and domes of St. Mark's

able of entering into his feelings. But one thing I did enjoy immensely, and that was the part singing in the gondolas by moon light."

"Ah! that must be rapturous. Do you always go about iu these gondolas ?"

"Oh no. You can go about Venice on

foot almost as much as in any other ' town, although by rather roundabout j ways. The Grand Canal, dividing the city into two unequal parts, ana in its whole length of two miles with only three bridges, is the great obstruction to foot passengers. But with this excep tion there is little occasion for the humbler people at any rate to use the canals at all. In fact, the poor people in Venice no more think

of using gondolas habitually than the working

people of Melbourne or Adelaide would of going daily ir cabs."

He could have bitten his tongue off the

next moment, but the ominous word had been i

uttered, and here was the girl looking full into ]

his face with a quick, conscious, half-enquir- ' ing, half-perplexed gaze.

He looked away qnickly and coloured hor ribly in the vivid nnromantic fashion peculiar

to a man whose days are for the most part I passed out of doors. Over forehead, nose, cheeks, and sun-bronzed neck the blood flashed, and stayed with an abominable ob stinate persistency.

' Talk not of grief till thou hast seen the tears of warlike men," says some writer of poems, and so it may be said let no one talk of blushes who has not seen the painfully rising, long-surviving crimson which suffuses an athlete's manly countenance.

" He was so poor at one time that he actu ally had to drive a cab, and he knows that I know it," thought Genevifeve with a throb of passionate pity.

" I have gone about in Sydney for a lark as

a beast of a cabman, and she sets me down as a blackguard," said George to himself with savage anger at his own stupidity—not at having imposed upon and driven her in a cab, for, thought he, the sight of her was quite excuse enough for that, but for having ap proached the dangerous topic of cabs. Had he not somewhere read long ago a fairy

tale in which when a certain word was re peated everything came tumbling down about everybody's ears ?

" Gen, Mrs. North is very anxious to hear rou sing ' Wearing awa', Jean.' Will you, like a good child ?"

Geneyifeve, without a word, rose and went to the piano. Mr. Westlake found the song and placed it before her, and presently bcr beautiful'voice, cleat and pure as a bell[ rang out with the tender and most touching words of that old Scotch ballad. Bardinge listened with a kind of breathless emotion. TYuth to tell most of the singing he bad heard of any high order of merit had been from the sirens of the stage, painted aud powdered and arrayed iu inexpressibly costly dresses with inexpressibly low necks. Involuntarily he contrasted these with the girl before him clad in a rigidly simple cream-coloured cash mere, unrelieved by a gleam of brighter colour save that afforded by a cluster of scarlet rosebuds at the throat, and in the luxuriant coil of golden hair low down on her neck.

I am wearin' awa, Jean,

To the land o' the leal, Jean.

Something rose, in bis throat that threa tened to suffocate him, and could it actually he that there was some kind of moisture in his eyes?

" If I'm not serious now, by Jove I never will be," he said to himself, half-indignant at his emotion. The ballad was ended, and a chorus of eager voices rose in thanks. There was a pause, and then the proud inspiriting words of Burns's immortal songs " A man's a man for a' that, an' a' that, on1 a' that," were sung with indomitable spirit. Poor Hard inge was in that stajje of self-consciousness and abasement in which every triBe seems charged with a hidden meaning. Why did Miss Gray sing that radical song with so mnch fervour? Be could hardly tell why,

but it made him uncomfortable.

Genevifeve no sooner found herself alone

with Mrs. Westlake that night than she plunged into the subject whicn puzzled her so insistently.

" Clarice, have you known Mr. Hardinge long?"

"Oh, off and on for the last five years. Whv do you ask ?"

" Because, no doubt you will be quite in credulous and astonished beyond measure, nevertheless, I am convinced that he was the man who drove me in a cab in Sydney. Yes, I recognised his face at once, and then—but what need is there of proof?"

"Why don't you ask him straight?"

"Well, you see it is rather a delicate question; nothing bat extreme poverty would make a gentleman take for any time to such an occupation. Has he had money always since yon knew him ?"

" Not a great deal of his own. He lived with his uncle for five years before the old gentleman died.

" When did he die ?"

"Oh, about nine months ago, while we were away. George is the heir to all the old man's property, but up to the time of his death I .dare say George might occasionally run short of money. Young men do now ana then, especially when they are in town. It's rather mysterious—unless indeed you are the victim of an accidental resemblance.

Gen's brow was clouded. It seemed more than ever difficult to come to any kind of rational solution, and as the dayB went on, and their acquaintanceship ripened into friendship, some inBtinctive feeling withheld her from broaching the subject."

"I notice you keep up the rile, of the serious young man very effectually, Hardinge, said Mr. Westlake, as the two sat smoking one evening a fortnight after their first conversation on the matter.

" By Jove, I never felt more absolutely up a tree iu my life," returned the young man, with a quick impatient sigh. " The fact is, Westlake, I am over head and ears in love."

"My dear fellow, how many times have you had a similar experience before this ?"

"Mere frivolous excitements! Algy; but this time it is profound—irretrievable—and yet my mouth is sealed; or if I speak, what a confession to make, the very first thing. She is a thousand times too good for me at my best, but really that escapade puts me in a worse light than I deserve.'

" Hang it, man, why don t yon go and make

a clean breast of it? 'He either fears his I fate too much'—you know the rest."

"Oh, yes, it'sall very fine for yon to assume j such a lofty air of indifference—like a"

" How I am going to tarn yon out, yonng man, into the shrubbery, or the stone pine avenue, there to rave at the planets and seasons, or whatever other malign influence is supposed to be in fault. You won't take my advice, you ahnse me and waste my time; tbat abstract of Hindoo agricultural usages is still in the wildest anarchy."

" And this is what you call hospitality,"

muttered Hardiuge in tragic tones from tne , depths of an easy ehair, but making no sign of leaving the room, which was his host's special retreat, and which for some occult reason not discernible to the eye of a Gentile was known as the office. It was a warm

drowsy afternoon early in December, the shadows were lengthening, and the wind, which had shifted to the sonth, was gradually cooling. Presently Hardinge drew back the window curtain, saw Geuevihve with a flower basket in one hand and a pair of garden scissors in the other flitting about from bush to bush gathering some of the roses that re main loyal to us longest. A sudden resolve fired his mind to have done once aud fo; all with his fears and doubts and self-upbraid

{jenevifcve turned to him saying something

about the destruction which yesterday's hot winds had wrought among the flowers, but be was eo bent on coming to the point, and allowing nothing to divert him from his penance of full and absolute confession, that he made no response. His silence surprised her, aud turning round she met his eyes fired

on her face with an unmistakable kind of expression. Civilization lends such close' fitting masks to our faces, that the rare mo ments on which our deepest feelings are allowed to show themselves stand out in the

memory like glimpses of transfiguration.

Genevifeve never forgot the depth of honest kindly love, and of pathetic humility which were 'expressed on Hardinge's face in that

moment.

•' Miss Gray, I have something to say, if you will give me a few moments.

They walked to the stone pine avenue in silence. The shadows were thick and con tinuous, with here and there a streak of tremulous rose-coloured light. For the sun had almoBt vanished behind the horizon, and the whole west far up into the heavens was barred with cumuli of cloud, radiant and golden as the gates of the New Jeru salem, which John in bis vision at Patmos saw let down from heaven. Between the

flaming clouds wore strips of sky of a pale aerial greenish light, untouched by. the illu mination. and every moment as it passed wrought its own gradual subtle change in the

scene.

'Did you not think you had seen me

in yo

before, when we met tbat first evening?"

" I am sure I did—in Sydney, a year ago."

There was a pause, and then Genevifeve, taking her courage in both her bands, and not looking her companion full in the face as was her wont when she spoke to any one,

said in rather a low tone—

"If it embarrasses you ts allude to the circumstances, prav don't."

" It embarrasses me horribly, but I really must explain—that ia, if you will allow me— if you don't consider ine a presumptuous ass in intruding my own affairs on you."

"Ob, not at alL Indeed, to tell you the truth, I have often and often wondered since we met here why you should have driven—a —a cab. If you were very poor, you

know"

" Ah, well, I knew by your eyes that they could not possibly mislead you. I would have explained the very first evening I saw you here, only I was afraid "

" Afraid of what ?"

" Of losing your good opinion."

" Oh! Do you tnink it absolutely follows that we look upon people only in the light of their position?"

" I think it highly probable that when I tell you all you will bid me good-by with a freezing little nod, and afterwards when we happen to meet, look auietly another way. Do you know, I don't believe any man can give the cut direct like a woman."

" But surely you don't want to monopolize all the little sins as well as the big ones?" an swered Genevi&ve, her gravity replaced by an irrepressible smile at the solemn earnestness of the young man's face and voice.

Ah, come now ; that's real malice. And youknow, Miss Gray,' I think it's the eleventh commandment not to strike a man when he's down. What makes me say that about the cutting line is an incident that came under

my notice a few years ago. A young man, a friend of mine, was engaged to be married. He was awiulljrin love, and brimming over with talk of the young lady. Well, some thing happened that led to the engagement being broken off. Six months afterwards I was with him in 'town, and these two met face to face. Poor Dick tamed white and red, and involuntarily raised his hat. But the young lady—Bbe just gave one qnick look, ana then looked calmly the other way. All this week when I've been trying to screw my courage to the sticking-point I have remembered that with a shiver, fancying how I wonld feel if a few weeks after this we happened to meet.' Suppose it might be here, sod you would just lower your eyelids, and take no more notice of me than if I-were a black beetle."

At this Genevieve fairly laughed.

" Really, Mr. Hardinge, you draw. mo3t harrowing pictures of myiuoeness,"

"Yes; hut a few words make such a diffe rence sometimes, aud I would feel such a lonely wretch if you Baw fit to treat me in that way. You can't tell, you know, how you

may feel when I tell you.' You can conceive . circumstances under which you would not look at me again, can't yon ?"

Genevieve hesitated and coloured pain

fully. She began to feel really uncomfortable . SB to the depths of depravity which might have led her companion to take temporarily to cabdriving.

" 1 would not like to imagine that there ?"could possibly be any justification for such a course on my part," sue said, with a shade of

coldness in her manner.

" Ah ! - I feel it already in my bones," said Hardinge, as -if speaking to himself. Miss. Gray, do me thiB favour; let us walk to the end of the avenue, talking as if 1 had no con

fession to make, and no fear of annihilation - looming over me."

" Oh yes, certainly."

" You sang a German song last night which sounded so curiously sad and wistfulj; will you tell me what it meant? I learnt a little German at school, but I never got further than 'Have you the hippopotamus ef my good friend the baker ?' and so I only know that in yonr beautiful song there was some thing about a tree."

" Ein Eichtenbaum stelit cinsam.' Yes, it is a lovely little song; bat I quite despair of giving you any idea of its exquiaite beauty. I can nut give you a rougb paragraph. A tree stood solitary upon a desolate crag in the north—it elept; a white mantle was over

it of ice and snow—it dreamt of a palm-tree. that far away in the east stood alone, sorrow fully languishing in the fierce heat."

" All, 1! envy you the faculty of making people so happy.

"What, cau you imagine any one being hax>pier for hearing one of any poor little songs sung?"

"I cannot imagine it. I can only feel it." " If you had your choice—supposing a fair.v godmother suddenly appeared to you and said, 'choose what you will be—a great painter, poet, sculptor, orator, or actor— what would you say ?"

" I would say, darling old godmother, let mc remain a squatter with wool at two shillings per pound, and promise me by the sign of the true Cross that Genevi&ve Gray will forgive me."

They were quite at the end of the avenue by this time. The girl looked up with hot cheeks, but her eyes were brave and un flinching.

" It needs'no fairy godmother to grant that prayer—I don't mean about the price of the wool—but the forgiveness."

" What? do you forgive me—really and truly, beforehand? No, no. I will not further impose upon your generosity. I will not really ask for absolution until you know the extent of my fatuity; but we have not finished our talk. This avenue is really absurdly short. I think I must have meant the other end." They turned and paced back slowly.

" I have answered your question about the J fairy godmother. Now answer mine. If just one prayer were to he granted to you, what

should it be?"

" That I might be a great poet," answered the girl quickly. A shade of disappointment flitted over the young man's face.

" How very quickly you decided."

"Ah, that is because I have so often wavered before. • When I see a wonderful sunset across the sea I cannot resist wishing that I were a painter. But colours fade ana canvass gets torn, and only a small small section of the world ever enters pictnre gal leries or buys celebrated pictures. But a great poem—in a few months it might be scattered broadcast over the land. Lonely watchers by sick beds in the dead of night

would read my poem, and forget for a while their cares. Women who had risked all on a single throw of life's dice and lost, bat whose lips must still be curved in smiles, as though all were well with them, would read

it and be healed of their bitterness. Men

wbo had sold their heritage for a mess of pottage would believe that though nature is relentless God must forgive eternally; the peasant returning from his day's labour would sing snatches of it; the memqjy of its melodies would calm weary souls to rest j the sailor hov in strange seas would recall it, and think of his mother, it would sink down into the hearts of the people, and become part of their very lives."

"Ah, then, when yon would choose to be a poet you would, I suppose, stipulate to he greater than Homer or Shakspeare?"

" Greater ? In my wildest moments I never dreamt such blasphemy."

" No ? but don't you see that the very greatest poets who ever lived have found an

audience only with selected sections of their own and foreign nations. The man of letters, the soldier, the sailor, and the tinker have tasteB that differ as widely in poetry as in

tobacco."

*' I am not, I confess, very ambitious to write for tinkers," answered Genevifeve, somewhat piqued, and then struck with the absurdity of the position, she laughed—a full, merry laugh, in which her companion joined involuntarily.

" I Buppcse you are right, hut surely if I may be supposed for one brief instant to have a fairy godmother, I may be allowed a little scope in the fulfilment of my wish."

" No, I think not. If you choose to he a great poet, you must take all the probable disadvantages. You know as children we pay as happy as a 'king or- queen. Of course, then we think only of the purple and the glittering crowns, and the palaces of delient: not of the Prime Ministers, who will probably be rude, and the Nihilists, who may possibly blow us up."

" So you think I must really chance all the heart-breaking and neglect- that have some times been the portion of genius ?"

" Certainly, you must imagine that you might have to live very high up in a garret."

"I shouldn't mind tnat very much."

" With sometimes only a crust of bread to eat; but worse than all, that you should have to listen to men, women, and children sing ing snatches ont of "Pinafore" and the " Pirates," and similar productions, while unregenerate publishers offered you—say, £5- lor your immortal works, and then made a loss by the bargain. Would the fuss that hslf-idle people made about yon. say three hundred years afterwards, mean so very

much?"

" You evidentlv don't think my choice is as wise as your own ; nevertheless, I keep to it, even with tbe nsk of a garret, a crust of bread, and utter neglect from a few genera tions who hunger only after amusement and money."

The son had quite disappeared, the Yang Yangs, which had kept up a ceaseless chorus all through the long afternoon, when-the sun's rays shone full and warm over them, were gradually dropping off to repose. The other end of the avenue was now reached, and George Hardiuge plunged into his con fession, saying—

"It would- be cowardly to ask for a longer

reprieve. That day you went hurriedly down Wellington-place, "Miss Gray, looking to the left and right, I was slowly driving up to see a friend of mine who had met with an acci dent and was lodging in a house close by. I eaw the doctor's carriage at the door, and so I went at a snail's pace till I should see him clear out. I watched you for some little time before you saw me, and I made certain of two things—that you wero in distress and were looking for a cab. As you came nearer you saw me looking at you. You hailed me, and acting on the impulse of the moment I responded. I thought at first only of driving you to the doctor's and back, and thee modestly stating that I was not a cabby. After'all you know, making every allowance for your agitation, it was not very flattering to be taken for a bona fide cabman. Partly, however, for a 'lark,' and partly for another reason, I thought I would keep up the decep tion a little longer: so next day I hired' a trap and horse of the ordinary cab descrip tion, and on three successive occasions I had

the felicity of driving yon about. I meant to do so until 1 should by some means discover your name; but an old fogey, a friend of uncle's, happened to see me one day, sent a telegram that I was evidently in the last stage of destitution, and 1 received a peremp tory summons home in the shape of a tele gram worded so ambigiously that it mi^ht portend any kind of calamity—' Something is wrong. I am in much distress, Return' at once. Of course I had no option but to take the night train and start at once."

Miss Gray's eyes were fixed on the nar rator's face with a cold kind of astonishment which he found singularly disconcerting. > When he ceased there was a long pause.

" I suppose it must be getting near eight," said Genivi&ve at last, in a clear unsym

Sathetic voice, and making a gesture as if to

epart.

But Hardinge held her basket and did -not' move. He looked wistfully at the roBes and then at Genividve.

" 1 am glad we bad that little friendly last chat," he said softly.

' Geniviive showed some signs of agitation —that is she coloured deeply, and lobked up

as if watching a pair of bronzewinged pigeons that were returning to the dove cote, but she said nothing.

"And as for a fairy godmother I wish more ardently than ever that one might ap pear. I would ask that I might be changed

into a fellow that had died two hundred years ago after writing a few sonnets; then, though Miss Genivi£ve Gray could not speak to me, she would at least hold my memory in kindly remembrance."

"I think we have beeu a little absurd— both of us"—this in a hesitating voice, which, with a slight accent on both, took away the stingof the verdict.

"Have you any brothers, Miss Gray ?"

"No. There were two born before me, but one died hi infancy and the other at two years of age."

"Ah! lean understand that you should 1>e rather unmerciful: but I cannot, I really cannot understand why you should be so un

generous. Pardon me if the word'sounds Harsh, but indeed it is true."

There was a suggestion of dying strawberry leaves which came and went on the air like the warbling of music. It strnck some dor mant chord in Genividve's memory which made her falter and relent.

" I am sorry if it is true, but ——"

"It is true," repeated George unblush ingly. He perceived his advantage and foDowed it up without one twinge of

conscience. " A little while ago you were ready to forgive me without Hearing my explanation, and now that you know all ana you must admit it might easily be worse— you coldly consign me to outer darkness."

" But why did you act so very strangely ?"' " Can you not guess ?"

"Well, you have explained that it was partly for a 'lark.' I should hava thought that my evident distress when I made such a foolish mistake might have shielded me from being so absurdly imposed upon."'

"Now, you are going to be cross again. Don't. It is nearly always a mistake to be cross. I said partly for a lark and partly for another reason. The other reason is far far the weightier."

" Then what was your other reason?"

" Because I loved you—loved you almost from the first moment I saw you. • Darling, we have wasted too much time in idle talk. ... I knew almost all the time you weren't going to have me hanged after alL How could you when your own eyes were the real traitors! Genivifcve, I Hardly care whether yon forgive me or no. I can't pre tend to be sorry when by merely wearing an old coat and Hat and driving a crazy old brute of a horse in a shabby trap I was near you for two or three half-hours. Gen, just say you like a fellow a little bit."

)'I can't say I like a fellow a little bit," said Genivi&ve, laughing softly, though the tears stood in her eyes. " But I love you a great, great deal."